The New England Patriots head into the Sunday game against the Steelers with a league best 350.5 passing yards a game average and they are tied for second in the league with a 9.1 yards per attempt. Lost in all of those great stats are the yards after the catch that the Patriots have racked up in 6 games this season.
Of the 2,163 passing yards that quarterback Tom Brady has amassed this year, 993 have come after the catch. This is 46% of his passing yards this season. Leading the way of course in YAC for the Patriots is Wes Welker. Welker leads the NFL through week 7 with 392 yards after the catch and has only played 6 games. That is right at 50% of his 785 receiving yards this year and 18% of the Brady passing yards. Pretty amazing.
Welker is not the only YAC warrior for the Patriots as tight end Rob Gronkowski is 15th in the league with 210 yards after the catch. That is a whopping 52% of his 401 receiving yards. Combine Welker and Gronkowski together and they have 602 yards after the catch, or 28% of the Brady passing yards. I am not going to break down his numbers, but Deion Branch is also in the top 25 as far as YAC goes.
Brady is not going deep to his receivers either for the most part as 153 of 160 of his completions have flown 20 yards or less in the air according to the espn.com stats. 1,091 of Brady\’s 2,163 passing yards, the ball has only flown 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He has just over a 75% completion ratio on these short passes in addition. Brady has only thrown a ball 21 yards or more just 22 times this season and completed just 7 of them. 6 of those 7 were in the 21-30 yard range.
As impressive as the Patriots offensive YAC has been, the defense has certainly given up its share of it. 890 of the 1990 passing yards allowed by their defense have come after the catch. That\’s 45% of the yards allowed through the air and ranks 31st in the league in YAC allowed. Only the Raiders are worse as they have allowed 42 more yards after the catch.
What about the Steelers and YAC? You would think it would be high based on the 1,985 passing yards, but in fact they only have 619 yards after the catch for a league low 31% of all passing yards. This is pretty much due to the deep balls to Mike Wallace, as he just does not have much YAC on the table to get on the deep touchdowns or he is tackled right after making the long catch. Of his 730 receiving yards, only 172 of them have come after the catch. That is just 24% of his total receiving yards, but Wallace still ranks 23rd in the league in YAC just the same.
Unlike Brady, only 63% of the Ben Roethlisberger passing yards have come on passes thrown 20 yards or less. 88% of Brady\’s passing yards originate on passes 20 yards or less. To make a long point, short, the Steelers YAC is lost in the air. Literally.
Defensively the Steelers have been good at wrapping receivers up after the catch, a signature trademark of a Dick LeBeau defense. Through 7 games the Steelers have allowed just 481 yards after the catch on 128 receptions. That works out to just 3.8 YAC per catch average and 3rd best in the league as far as that stat goes. Only 37% of all passing yards allowed have come after the catch. That is pretty damn good.
In closing, this game will not boil down to YAC alone, but it will be something to look at after the game. The Steelers will not shut down Brady, Welker and Gronkowski completely, but it will go a long way if they can wrap the Patriots receivers up quickly as they have done throughout the season against their opponents. The Patriots defense is vulnerable through the air as I have shown in this post and the previous one. Any extra YAC they can get against a Patriots defense, that does not tackle well will make the field even shorter for Roethlisberger and the offense.
It is not all about the YAC, but YAC does matter. Unless it is lost in the air like it is with the Steelers.
Enjoy the stats below.
|Offensive Passing Stats Through Week 7|
|Defensive Passing Stats Through Week 7|